Created by the merger of Luton Wanderers and Luton Excelsior in 1885, they were one of the founder members of the Southern League in 1894. They applied for membership of the Football League in 1896, joining in 1897 but resigned from the League in 1900 to re-join the Southern League. They moved to their Kenilworth Road grounds in 1905.
The Southern League became Division Three after WW I and Luton remained in that division for seventeen seasons. The team won promotion from the Second Division in 1954-55. Luton made their only appearance in the FA Cup final in 1959 losing to Nottingham Forest. They were relegated in the 1959-60 season falling rapidly to the Fourth Division in the next few years. Recovery began in the 1967-68 season with the Fourth Division championship and was followed by a long spell mostly in the Second Division before winning that championship in 1981-82. Their glory seasons occurred in the mid 1980s under David Pleat and then Ray Harford, finishing seventh in 1986-87, visiting Wembley three times in 1987-89, including a 3-2 victory over Arsenal F.C in the Littlewoods Cup Final.
They were relegated from the top division in 1992, went bankrupt in 1998, lost their controversial owner David Kohler and fell to the Third Division for the 2001-02 season. Under the management of Joe Kinnear the club rallied and placed second in the division in 2001-02, gaining automatic promotion back to the Second Division. In 2002-03 the team consolidated their place in the Second Division, finishing ninth.
Their stadium is the 9,975 seater Kenilworth Road Stadium, Maple Road, Luton. Since the 1980s the club have been constantly reporting a move to a new stadium close to the M1.
In May 2003 the club was sold to a "mystery" consortium headed by John Gurney, previously owner of Bedford RFC. Chairman Mike Watson-Challis retired to be appointed life president and the intention was to replace him as chairman by Roger Terrell, ex-Peterborough United, until Terrell declined.
Shortly after the purchase, manager Joe Kinnear and assistant Mick Harford were sacked, financial reasons were cited as the cause. Later Harford was offered the post despite having been sacked and after his rejection Kinnear was approached and a fan voting prossess was instituted. The eventual outcome of this farcical process was the appointment of Mike Newell who, it was claimed, had won the vote though this seems very unlikely.
Gurney and his consortium were then removed by the club being placed into administrative recivership by its major creditor. The creditor turned out to be the newly formed supporters trust Trust in Luton who appointed Barry Ward as the administrator to run the club until new investors could be found. Mr Ward took Northampton Town FC out of administration in the early nineties.
In December 2003 the courts ruled that the club could be sold to one of the bidders who approached Mr. Ward; dispite the protests of John Gurney and a cheeky attempt by him to also bid for the club.
Mr. Ward's prefered bid was that of a consortum headed up by former Luton director Bill Tomlins. Mr Tomlins was at the club during the 1980's. The Tomlins bid was also backed by Trust in Luton.
The club now await the verdict of the Football League board due to meet on the 15th January 2004. It is expected that they will give the go-ahead for Mr. Tomlins to take over the club and lift the sanctions placed apon it.
The situation is still in development, a POV overview can be found here.